What is the best way to understand someone? Empathy. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another’s shoes, to feel and emotionally relate to what someone is feeling in order to understand the pain or bliss felt by another.
Picture this. You, a cisgender heterosexual (based on an assumption of course) is told that the attraction you feel for the opposite sex, the comfort that you experience in your own skin and gender is INVALID. You are told to “fix” yourself, to not give in to your hormones, that everything you feel, everything you ARE is against nature and cannot be accepted.
Let me try a much simpler approach. You have all been rejected by someone in your life. May it be by a crush, a loved one, your parents or mentors, or even by your friends. Rejection is very painful, isn’t it? It leads to self-doubt and rocks your very foundation. Until you are left with one question, WHY? Why wasn’t I accepted? Why wouldn’t they like me? What did I do wrong?
Questions that you get over with time, depending on where the rejection comes from. Now picture this time of uncertainty and multiply it ten folds, hundred folds! Imagine being rejected by all your loved ones. Imagine being rejected by random strangers on the internet, by friends and foe alike, rejected for your very existence, for who you are.
This is what the LGBTQIA+ community is faced with. REJECTION.
I believe that awareness is NOT what we lack right now. Everyone is aware of the community, the struggles faced by them, the backlash, the support, and the reach. Some of you probably even have friends in that community. You yourself might be a part of it, closeted or not.
Some understand, some refuse to. Some accept it as a part of the outside world but wouldn’t welcome it at their own front door. Some cry, others jeer. Some question and some feign ignorance. Some are closeted by choice, some are forced into it. Some pray for acceptance and some believe that rejection is the path to salvation. Some love, and some would call it anything but that.
But what we forget is, that we are all one and the same.
MY sexuality, MY sexual preference or MY gender isn’t what you should be judging ME on. What I think that I am today, my gender at this very minute, the attraction that I feel for another right now, is NOT, and never should be something that you put me down for.
Because, after all I am like you. A living breathing human, and that should be enough of a reason for you to respect me, my wishes, and my boundaries.
In a very wholesome Australian parliament gathering at which the legalization of same sex marriages was being debated upon, parliamentarian Tim Wilson proposed to his partner of 9 years Ryan Bolger through a very emotional speech and said, “The rings we wear on our left hands are the answer to the question we cannot ask”. Moving the house to realize the lack of a humane approach towards the community and the reluctance in allowing a group of people to enjoy their civil rights, a basic human right. On a happier note, the following week Australia legalized same sex unions. Although Asian countries find it much more difficult to bring up these discussions, it is unavoidable that the community itself is gaining a voice, growing in numbers and deserves an address on such matters.
Keeping aside the fact that homosexuality yet remains to be decriminalized in Sri Lanka, it is quite concerning that we are yet to embark on a road to acceptance.
Let me be honest, I’d rather if such a concept was not needed. If one could remain unquestioned for being a cis-hetero, then why do people identifying themselves as queer need such an acceptance?
But it would be foolish to believe in the existence of such a utopian world. Maybe, just maybe there might come a time in which coming out videos are unnecessary or is made common amongst those who are straight. A world in which inequality in all forms is abolished. Where women aren’t baby making machines and homosexuals aren’t pushed into conversion camps, forced to go against their nature. But reality exists, and along with it the harsh truth for the need of acceptance. The need for moral support, hope and above all love is vital for this community to strive against those who wish ill upon them. To fight for something that is so freely enjoyed and taken for granted by those who aren’t queer. The right to live as they are.
Pride month celebrates diversity, by providing a big space of expression to people who have so little space in real life. It is a month to recognize people who fought, lived, and died at the hands of ignorance and cruelty in this fight for equality. From great mythological warriors like Achilles to the voice of the Bohemian Rhapsody singer Freddie Mercury, those who had struggled with acceptance are numerous. To be free of the judgmental gaze of this society, to be loved, embraced, and accepted for who you are and to celebrate yourself devoid of doubts and fear.
That is all that the queer community asks for, that is all.
Learn, respect and accept. Be an Ally, a Voice, and most importantly a glimmer of Hope.
Written by: Rtr. Abinaya Sritharan
Edited by: Rtr. Dinithi Wijayaratne